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N.A.A.C.P. v. ACUSPORT CORPORATION

October 1, 2002

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP), PLAINTIFF
V.
ACUSPORT CORPORATION; ELLET BROTHERS, INC., RSR MANAGEMENT COMPANY, AND RSR GROUP, INC., INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF SIMILARLY SITUATED ENTITIES. ET AL., DEFENDANTS. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (NAACP), PLAINTIFF V. AMERICAN ARMS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jack B. Weinstein, United States Senior District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff seeks an injunction, claiming that defendants, producers and distributors of guns, have created a nuisance by their methods of sale. See NAACP v. Acusport Corp., ___ F. Supp.2d ___ (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 2002); NAACP v. Acusport Corp., ___ F. Supp.2d ___ (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2002). Funds to help abate are also sought. The case is set for trial on November 18 at 10:00 a.m with an advisory jury. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 39(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 16. The jury will be consulted on the issue of liability of the defendants and, if liability is found, on the scope of the injunctive relief necessary to abate the nuisance. A written questionnaire will be used in selecting the jury. See Transcript of Conference of Sept. 9, 2002, NAACP v. Acusport (Nos. 99 CV 3999; 99 CV 7037) (E.D.N.Y. 2002).

II. Law

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c) provides that in any case in which there is no right to a trial by jury the court may, on its own initiative, try any issue with an advisory jury.

A. Right to a Trial By Jury

The Seventh Amendment preserves the right to a trial by jury in suits at common law. U.S. Const. amend. VII; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(a). This right applies to suits analogous to common law actions recognized in 1791 at time of the ratification of the amendment; it does not apply to suits analogous to 18th century equity cases. See Tull v. United States, 481 U.S. 412, 417 (1987). On the development of equity, see generally In re Joint Eastern & Southern Districts Asbestos Litigation v. Falise, 878 F. Supp. 473 (E.D. & S.D.N.Y. 1995), and authorities there cited: e.g., Julius Goebel, Jr., Cases and Materials on the Development of Legal Institutions (1946); John R. Kroger, Supreme Court Equity, 1789-1835, and the History of American Judging, 34 Hous. L. Rev. 1425 (1998); Frederic W. Maitland, Equity, Also the Forms of Action at Common Law (1929); 8 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 38 App.102 (3rd ed. 2002); 1 John Norton Pomeroy, A Treatise on Equity Jurisprudence (1881). See also N.Y. Jud. Law § 140-b.

An injunction is an equitable remedy; actions solely for injunctions do not require trial by jury. See, e.g., Reich v. Tiller Helicopter Services, Inc., 8 F.3d 1018, 1032 (5th Cir. 1993); Wilson v. Bailey, 934 F.2d 301, 305 n. 4 (11th Cir. 1991); Rodriguez v. Munoz, 808 F.2d 138, 142-43 (1st Cir. 1986); 8 James Wm. Moore et al, Moore's Federal Practice § 38.10[3][a][iii] (3rd ed. 2002). Actions to enjoin a public or a private nuisance and for the recovery of costs incurred in abatement are equitable. See In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 587-93 (1895); Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623 (1887); Conner v. City of Santa Ana, 897 F.2d 1487, 1493 (9th Cir. 1990); United States v. Wade, 653 F. Supp. 11, 13 (E.D. Pa. 1984); 8 Moore, supra, § 38.30[3]. As noted in In re Debs:

The jurisdiction of the court of chancery with regard to public nuisances is founded on the irreparable damage to individuals, or the great public injury which is likely to ensue. Indeed, it may be affirmed that in no well-considered [sic] case has the power of a court of equity to interfere by injunction in cases of public nuisance been denied, the only denial ever being that of a necessity for the exercise of that jurisdiction under the circumstances of the particular case.

158 U.S. 564, 592 (1895)

There is no right to a non-jury trial. A party may not insist upon a bench trial. See Beacon Theaters v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 510, 511 n. 17 (1959); Fed.R.Civ.P. 39(c).

B. History and Purpose of the Advisory Jury

Reliance on advisory juries can be traced to the English Chancery Court. See 8 Moore, supra, § 39.40[1]. The chancellor in equity had the right to convene an advisory jury "to have its `conscience enlightened'." American Lumbermens Mut. Casualty Co. of Ill. v. Timms & Howard, Inc., 108 F.2d 497, 500 (2d Cir. 1939), quoting Vosburg Co. v. Watts, 221 F. 402, 408 (4th Cir. 1915). This power is codified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c).

In addition to being specifically authorized under the Federal Rules, advisory juries constitute a fundamental element of the American legal system. See generally 9 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure § 2335 (1995); 8 Moore, supra, § 39.40. They are authorized in almost every state, pursuant to the state rules of civil procedure or the judge's traditional equitable powers. See N.Y. C.P.L.R. 4212 (Consol. 2001); Ala. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); Alaska R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); Ariz. R. Civ. P. 39(m) (2002); Ark. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); Cal. R. Ct. 377 (2002); Colo. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (2002); Gladstone v. Commercial Services of Perry, Inc., 1999 WL 608679 at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1999); Del. Super. Ct. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (2002); D.C. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (2002); Vista Centre Venture v. Unlike Anything, Inc., 603 So.2d 576, 578-79 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992); Alta Anesthesia Associates of Georgia, P.C. v. Gibbons, 537 S.E.2d 388, 391 (Ga. Ct. App. 2000); Haw. Rev. Stat. § 635-12(b) (2001); Idaho R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); In re S.G., 677 N.E.2d 920, 928 (Ill. 1997); Ind. R. Trial P. 39(B) (2002); Kan. Civ. P. Code Ann. § 60-239 (West 2001); Ky. R. Civ. P. 39.03 (Baldwin 2001); Me. R. Civ. P. 39(d)(2002); Fine v. Cohen, 623 N.E.2d 1134, 1137 (Mass. App. Ct. 1993); Mich. Ct. R. 39(D)(1) (2002); Minn. R. Civ. P. 39.02 (2002); Miss. R. Civ. P. 50 cmt. (2002); Mo. R. Civ. P. 73.01 (2002); Mont. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); Synacek v. Omaha Cold Storage Terminals, Inc., 526 N.W.2d 91, 94 (Neb. 1995); Nev. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (2002); Lussier v. N.E. Power Co., 584 A.2d 179, 182 (N.H. 1990); N.J. R. Ct. 4:35-2 (2002); N.M. R. Civ. P. 1-039(B)(2002); N.C. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); N.D. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); Ohio R. Civ. P. 39(C)(2002); Butcher v. McGinn, 706 P.2d 878, 880 & n. 5 (Okla. 1985); Or. R. Civ. P. 51(D) (2002); Twitty v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co., 16 Pa. D. & C. 4th 458, 464 (1993); R.I. R. Civ. P. 39(c)(2002); S.C. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (2002); S.D. R. Civ. P. 15-6-39(c) ...


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